A mother has spoken of her relief that her daughter did not go with a man in his van who had arranged to meet her in a store car park intending to spend the night in a hotel.

Police said the image of the 62-year-old van driver meeting the 13-year-old girl at the pre-arranged rendezvous in County Durham was a “chilling” moment.

The girl went to the car park outside a discount store believing she was meeting an older boy, who she had been chatting to online in daily messages in the preceding weeks.

Peter Allison had groomed his 13-year-old victim on social media, pretending to be a teenager himself in the messaging.

He then drove 280 miles to meet her, having first booked a double room for the night in a budget hotel near Washington Services.

When Allison pulled up in his van, the shocked girl, uneasy at the situation, seeing the obvious age of driver, made the excuse of having to speak to her grandmother and ran to a nearby shop to call her mother to raise the alarm.

The Northern Echo: CCTV still of the moment Peter Allison approaches girl, 13, in a car park, hoping to take her to a

Allison, having failed to persuade the girl to join him in the van, then drove away and stayed the night in the hotel, before returning to London the following day.

Police said images captured on CCTV at the car park should act as a stark warning to children and parents that not everyone you meet online is who they claim to be.

The Northern Echo:

The vehicle was traced by police to Allison’s employer in London and further inquiries led officers to arrest him a week later, in November 2022.

Now aged 64, Allison, from Richmond upon Thames, in London, was sentenced to a total of 23 months’ imprisonment, having earlier pleaded guilty to meeting a child following grooming and a separate offence of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

He was made subject of registration requirements as a sex offender, plus restrictions under the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, both for ten years.

The court heard that he had bombarded his victim with Snapchat messages, asking for photographs of her in her school uniform then moved on to ask for intimate images, before suggesting the rendezvous.

A statement from the mother of Allison’s intended victim was read to the court, in which she said the incident had a “devastating” effect on their family.

She described her immature daughter as having “vulnerabilities”, low self-esteem and other anxieties.

When the incident was first reported to her she said she struggled to sleep for months and was filled with anger.

The relieved mother said her daughter struggles to talk about the episode and doesn’t have a life as she is so protective of her.

She said: “Thank God she didn’t get into the van that night,” and added that she feels “physically sick” a man of Allison’s age was prepared to travel in his van from the other end of the country to meet her daughter.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Liam Padget, of Durham Police, said: “The CCTV of Allison meeting the victim is chilling.

“What would have happened if she had got in that van does not bear contemplating.

“He travelled to meet a 13-year-old girl he had groomed online.

“It went so far as him meeting her, which is extremely serious and shows the lengths he was prepared to go to.

“He is a devious man who initially evaded arrest, then took steps to conceal his digital devices, but he was not clever enough to cover his tracks completely.

“This was a complex investigation and I am pleased with this outcome, particularly for the victim, who has some vulnerabilities, and for her family."

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Det Con Padget added: “I ask all parents to try to monitor their children’s online activities, so they do not come to harm at the hands of people like Allison.

“Not everyone you meet online is who they say they are.”

He said if there are concerns parents should visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk for confidential advice for both them and their children.